Only When I Laugh (1981)
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Joan Hackett gives her customarily excellent performance for which she was Oscar nominated but the part isn't award worthy. Still since this was her final feature film role before her death it nice that she was so honored for her many years of quality work. James Coco was similarly acknowledged and his part is more fleshed out but he has likewise had better roles. Kristy McNichol, at the height of her fame when this was made, surely took the project on feeling it would be a good showcase for her but except for one confrontation scene her character doesn't make much impact and it seems the script doesn't know what it wants her to be.
Not a bad film but for being a Neil Simon project the script is missing an incisiveness that is the hallmark of his better work.
Neil Simon's script is as crisp and vivid as ever. Too bad that both Miss Mason and Diane Keaton's performance in "Reds" were overlooked by the Academy when the Oscar went to the sentimental Katharine Hepburn for "On Golden Pond." Academy members were apparently voting for Henry Fonda for best actor in record numbers and just went down the line for Hepburn as well. What a shame.
The film deals with the frustrations and hopes of 3 people and that doesn't even include a worthy performance by Kristy McNichol as the daughter.
As the gay actor, desperately trying to succeed, the late James Coco was excellent. In the supporting category, he is well matched by the late Joan Hackett, tremendous as Mason's best friend, whose marriage is apparently falling apart.Those glittering grayish clothes that she wore expressed her emotions so well. No one could also wear those poncho outfits that Mason wore. They depicted a troubled, but independent lady.
This is an excellent case study of 3 friends in turmoil and how they try to cope while supporting each other emotionally. Trouble is that Georgia (Marsha Mason) allows herself to fall back and drink again. She says that as a youngster she wanted to be another Susan Hayward. She sure is crying tomorrow and smashing up her life.
Yes, it maybe somewhat similar to The Goodbye Girl but there are some major differences. It also has great story and moves along fast, is funny, and at one point you really do not like Marsha Mason character, which is what a good movie does!!! But this is a movie you need to see for yourself and make your mind up!!
The combination of Neil Simon and Marsha Mason makes this an almost instant awards bait movie. That comes with both good and bad baggage. There is something writery about Neil's writing. He's trying too hard with the humor. It doesn't feel natural sometimes. I do like the mother daughter chemistry. The boyfriend is problematic and I hoped for her to avoid him at all costs although I understand the needs of an actress. This definitely has Neil's sensibilities but it doesn't have enough cinematic flair. It's a step down from their earlier collaboration. Also watch out for young hottie Kevin Bacon. Then there is falling off the wagon. It hits on certain good notes but I'm uncertain about other notes being played.
Suppose to be a comedy but comes off more like a slow moving drama... Not really enjoyable at all... only a young Kristy McNichol brightening the screen, and stealing every scene she is in... However all actors are superb, working desprerately with the flimsy story.
Possibly the biggest problem with this movie is the fact that it is so obviously meant to only be done as a play, that it almost feels like you are watching one. Title and premise are promising but this only sadly falls short of a goal that could or rather should have been met... being a better movie...
It's like a rather boring made for TV movie of the time. It's a film that handles tender issues without love. The characters are clichéd and lightweight. A little bit like watching a movie length version of some 80s-style no brainer like Hart To Hart.
I felt quite angry with the person who recommended it to me in the same breath as other great films of the era. So, I thought I'd come online and warn others, before they made the same mistake and paid good money to see it.